Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Jan 12, 2009 12:08 AM

do we eat carnivores or scavengers?

i know fish eat other fish (so the concept is there), but i'm at a loss to name carnivores or scavengers that we eat.

i went down the list: hogs, cows, sheep, chicken...nope. squirrels? nope. frogs? nope. horse? (ha, got you with that one! just checking if you're awake yet....) crow?!? (ha!) <been there, done that.>

please educate me!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Pigs and boars are certainly scavengers; in addition to the plants in their diets, they eat insects, small animals and carrion. Bears are also omnivorous and tasty.

    Oh, and while horses are herbivores, they are also make for good eating, and can be found on the shelves of all the supermarkets and butchers in my neighborhood.

    1. Alligator and snakes are eaten - though it's not the main source of meat in any diet I'm aware of. Oh, and dogs are eaten in various parts of the world.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cresyd

        alligator is yummy, but isn't it a predator, not a scavenger?

      2. I would say it depends on how you want to define "scavenger". If you mean eating opportunistically (good food is where you find it), then most animals would qualify, including humans. If you restrict the meaning to an animal that eats carrion, then you're narrowing the field, but circumstances can broaden it again.

        Eating worms, grubs, and bugs is not an herbivore activity, but just about all birds would be carnivores of sort. I think hummingbirds and a few other birds are excepted, but left to live with both feet on the ground, chickens are right up there! I suspect that cows, dedicated herbivores, likely eat a bug or two in their lifetimes that is clinging to the grasses they eat. Pigs? Bears and man are usually classed as omnivores, but I think pigs will give either a run for their money.

        My guess is the reason we don't find a lot of exclusively carnivorous animals in our diet is because it was a losing game trying to domesticate them. Much easier to eat what you hunt yourself than it is to feed your kill to an animal so that you can eventually kill and eat it. Besides, who want to domesticate an animal that thinks you're lunch?

        3 Replies
        1. re: Caroline1

          While wild birds definitely go the bug route - birds that are raised for consumption (ducks, chickens, pigeons, etc) are rarely fed bugs. Goats are another animal left to their own devices will eat almost anything.

          1. re: cresyd

            You may have missed my implication: "[birds] left to live with both feet on the ground." Free range chickens scratch the ground looking for "edibles." Worms and grubs are not allowed to escape! But when raised in cages where they walk on wire all of their lives, no, they're not gonna get to eat worms.

            1. re: Caroline1

              You're absolutely correct - it's just whenever I think of the "birds as scavengers" I usually think of pigeons first and how they are in large cities versus those raised for consumption.

        2. we don't raise them for consumption, but we do indeed eat them (as a species)

          bear. alligator. birds of varying types. fish. shark. seals. dog. pigs. snake. etc

          3 Replies
          1. re: thew

            Jared Diamond discusses the issues surrounding domestication of carnivores for food in Chapter 9 of his [somewhat famous] book "Guns, Germs, and Steel." The major problem, as Caroline1 alluded to earlier, is the inherent inefficiency of raising animals that are at least one trophic level above herbivores, along with the obvious practical difficulties in raising for food an animal that is thinking of you the same way. He also notes that most of the major herbivorous animals are also unsuitable for domestication for a variety of reasons, citing that of 148 species of wild herbivorous mammals only 14 are suited for domestication.

            1. re: FlyFish

              caroline and flyfish, thanks for those insights. the book sounds intriguing.... i liked this line: "....the obvious practical difficulties in raising for food an animal that is thinking of you the same way."

              your insights bring to mind why people (typically) don't eat cats, because cats HELP man by killing rodents that carry disease and eat stores of grain.

              1. re: FlyFish

                I'll second the recommendation for Guns, Germs, and Steel. It's a little dry, but if you have any interest at all in anthropology it's a good start. Lot's of good background for why we eat what we do.

            2. Shellfish in general, especially lobster.

              And the big one: Pigs. As tmso note pigs are omnivores primarily, but will scavenge as well.